Wellingborough church hall still unusable after builders' foundation blunder
All Saints schoolchildren had been using the hall for PE and nursery lessons
A Wellingborough church hall is still unsafe to use and awaiting repair after it was left with a gaping hole when its foundations were undermined by work on an adjacent site, causing the wall of the building to collapse.
Overnight on May 12, a 2m by 3m section of the back wall of All Saints Church Hall fell into the next door excavations on the building site on the old allotments off Castle Mews, behind All Saints Church.
North Northamptonshire Council building controllers issued a Section 77 Notice on the church - the owners of the building - for the 'immediate area to be made safe'.
Structural engineers for the developers are to carry out an inspection, which will be sent to the structural engineers for approval before contacting building control.
A spokesman for North Northamptonshire Council said: “The council issued a Section 77 Notice on the owners of the building in order for the immediate area to be made safe.
“The developer and the church will now work together to make the building safe again.
"The council will continue to monitor the situation until the site is safe again.”
A Section 77 under the Building Act 1984 states that 'if it appears to a local authority that a building or structure, or part of a building or structure, is in such a condition, or is used to carry such loads, as to be dangerous, the authority may apply to a magistrates’ court, and the court may, where danger arises from the condition of the building or structure, make an order requiring the owner thereof to execute such work as may be necessary to obviate the danger'.
Builders had dug away the soil, close to the boundary where the hall sits above the site, ready for a retaining wall to be concreted and filled.
Following the incident, Nick Clarke, site agent for North London-based developers Siddhart, said: "We have reduced the ground level by 2.5m. We have to create a structural retaining wall and had to excavate as close as you can to the boundary. We have been doing it in sections.
"We have had a month of very dry weather. Then there was a massive deluge. A huge piece of mud fell down and the foundations on the hall that was built 50 years ago are tiny - only nine inches.
"We'd already dug it ready for the concrete and backfill. We left here at 4.30pm to 4.45pm and it was alright. To a lay person it looks awful but it's an easy enough job - It's about 3,000 bricks.
"The rest of the building is going nowhere. We have brace and shore scaffolding inside to hold it back up. We'll have to create a new foundation for the hall."
At the time, Mr Clarke had estimated that the work would be finished in a week with hall users able to return in two weeks.
All Saints CEVA Primary School and Nursery's children had been using the hall as a temporary home after floods wrecked their classrooms and assembly hall on August 16 last year.
The hall had been used by the primary school children in the afternoons for PE.
In a newsletter to parents and carers, headteacher Emma Johnson said: "No one is allowed to enter the church hall and one of the challenges we face is that all of the nursery and PE equipment is within the building.
"We have had kind offers of alternative spaces but have no equipment at the moment. Some of the offers, such as Weavers sports centre for PE, are an amazing opportunity but it is a 30-minute walk from school.
"With the weather at the moment we can’t even get the children into Castle Fields. Frustrated to be honest is an understatement. I do feel having seen the damage that this is a long-term issue and we have to maybe face that we will not be able to return to the space."
All Saints Church warden Bob Allen said: "We are totally in their (the developer's) hands. Their structural engineers are sending our structural engineers a report.
"Nobody can go into the building - it's fenced off - it is a dangerous structure. There's no argument with the contractor, we are just waiting for them to put it right.
"We hope we will be back in the the building very soon."
Full planning permission for five houses with parking and access was granted in 2019.